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Justice for Every Child: Protecting the World’s Most Marginalised Children From the Impact of COVID-19

COVID-19 has affected almost every country in the world, and nobody will feel the worst of its impact as painfully as the world’s most marginalised young people. Children living in hard-to-reach villages, children in informal ‘slum’ settlements, children forced to work, children on the move – all of them and more will experience both immediate and longer-term suffering if the world does not act now. 

Through the JUSTICE FOR EVERY CHILD campaign, 100 Million is working with its partners and international network of youth activists to call on the international community to provide immediate action for marginalised children and young people. 


Hundreds of millions of children already excluded – COVID-19 makes this worse

Hundreds of millions of children have long been excluded from reliable access to quality public education, sanitation or public healthcare, or any kind of social protection measures or safety net. Since COVID-19, those numbers have skyrocketed.

School closures – for the children who have access – mean millions no longer have their only regular daily meal and others will suffer greater violence or abuse without the protection that school offers them.

Lockdowns have proven that children who are victims of domestic abuse and violence are being left without respite from their abuser.

Social distancing, quarantine or self-isolation are impossible to practise in crowded homes and informal settlements.

Families that no longer have any income from work are terrified they will starve – and some already are.

When COVID-19 reached overcrowded or hard-to-reach neighbourhoods, the actions of some governments – including violent crackdowns on workers and a failure to ensure a stable food supply – give us serious cause for concern about the way in which the most marginalised have been and will be treated.

Longer-term impacts of COVID-19 on the world’s poorest children could prove catastrophic

Beyond the immediate effects of COVID-19, we are also extremely concerned by the longer-term impacts which marginalised children may be forced to endure.

As evidenced by previous global crises, there are disproportionate impacts on vulnerable groups, making worse the inequalities which already existed. Child labour and exploitation have increased in their wake, for example, especially when governments impose ‘austerity’ measures and tighter restrictions on human rights as we are already seeing with COVID-19.

Governments and international institutions have called for various measures to support the world’s poorest countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, but hard commitments, actions and financial resources remain woefully inadequate. Amounts confirmed to date represent a tiny fraction of the trillions of dollars committed by the world’s wealthier countries to supporting the richest corporations and countries. In fact, many of the companies eligible for such funding have robbed citizens of their public services by avoiding paying their fair share of taxes for years. This is unacceptable.

If leaders act now, the lives of hundreds of millions of children could be transformed

Children and young people will be repaying the cost of COVID-19 for decades to come. If this money is used to protect all of us equitably, we could turn a potentially disastrous situation into one where children are free, safe, and educated – and governments would be delivering the commitments and promises they have already made to their citizens.

To achieve this, governments must dedicate a fair share of funding to children who have been consistently excluded from public services and protection, in particular education and health, wherever in the world they may live.  


We, as European Students’ Union, are coming together with our fellow youth and student leaders across the world, including the All-Africa Students Union (AASU), Organising Bureau of School Student Union (OBESSU), Commonwealth Students Association (CSA) as part of the 100 Million campaign to demand that the rights of children and young people, especially the most marginalised, are protected during COVID-19.

We are calling on governments to take immediate action to protect the most vulnerable children now and to prevent a child and youth rights catastrophe in the near future. This has to be a combination of new actions based on an emergency response to COVID-19, and actions to deliver some of the core Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – to which every government has already committed.

To governments of high-income countries:

We are calling for financial commitments worth $1 trillion to fund and deliver targeted interventions to protect the world’s poorest 20% of children from the short- and medium-term impacts of COVID-19. These funds should be used to:

Fully fund the UN’s Global Humanitarian Response Appeal, the Global Alliance for Vaccinations and Immunisations (GAVI) for 2021-2025 and future WHO COVID-19 appeals, helping ensure the most vulnerable children are protected.  

Cancel all external debt payments due from the governments of low-income countries in 2020 and 2021.

Close the financing gap to help achieve the health Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 3) in all low- and lower-middle-income countries until 2030.  

Provide 2 years of the financing needed to achieve the SDGs on Water and Sanitation (SDG targets 6.1 & 6.2) 

Provide 2 years of the external funding gap to achieve good quality universal education from pre-primary to secondary education in all low- and lower-middle income countries. 

Ensure all aid is allocated to the countries in most need from 2020.

Provide aid to start-up and initial costs for social protection schemes targeted towards children, which could end child labour and poverty for generations to come.

To governments of low- and lower-middle income countries: 

We are calling for a fair share of public services and financial resources to children who live on $2 a day or less. This should be delivered in the following ways:

Using emergency aid financing from the World Bank and other multilateral institutions to ensure emergency healthcare services for poorer and rural communities for the duration of the global pandemic, and to allocate domestic budget to maintain accessible public healthcare to meet the SDG 3 targets by 2030.

Maintaining or providing reliable clean water in areas which currently do not have access to a regular supply for the duration of the global pandemic, and deliver infrastructure and maintenance to meet the SDG 6 targets by 2030.

Protecting the supply of food for all parts of their country throughout the duration of the pandemic.

Providing emergency financial support to families with no income throughout the duration of the pandemic and to strengthen or establish social protection schemes for the most marginalised children by 2025.

To all governments: 

No country will ever be able to provide good quality, sustainable public services and protection without receiving their fair share of taxes, but every year over half a trillion dollars is lost by multinational companies dodging their taxes. We are calling for international efforts to deliver global reform to tax systems, in order to enable low-income countries to fund medium-long term measures to prevent an escalation in the number of children entering child labour or exploitation and dropping out of school in the wake of COVID-19, particularly given the negative impact it has already had on low-income economies. This should be delivered in the following ways: 

Ensuring that any company which fails to pay its fair share of taxes in the countries in which it operates is ineligible for financing from COVID-19 bailout funds during and in the immediate period after the pandemic.

Ensuring all taxation systems are transparent, including by closing tax havens, by 2030.

Making progress towards a globally inclusive mechanism for setting tax regulations to end tax avoidance.


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